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Thursday open thread: Can the Lions slow Ezekiel Elliott?

Do the Lions have any chance in slowing the league’s leading rusher

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

One of the biggest keys for the Detroit Lions to pull off the upset against the Dallas Cowboys is to stop their rookie phenom in the backfield. Ezekiel Elliott has been the catalyst to the Cowboys offense all season, and it has resulted in Elliott leading the league in rushing yards by well over 300 yards.

Since Week 1, Elliott has had at least 80 yards in 13 straight games, and has only been held below 4.0 yards per carry once over that stretch (he had 3.9 YPC vs. the Ravens). In that same 13 game stretch, he has only been held out of the end zone five times. So today’s Question of the Day is:

Do the Lions have any chance in slowing down Ezekiel Elliott?

My answer: It doesn’t look like it. The Lions run defense isn’t all that bad. They allow 4.2 YPC on average which falls right in the middle of the league. The best feature of the Lions run defense is their ability to prevent big plays. Because of strong tackling from linebackers and safeties in run support, the Lions have only allowed six rushes of 20+ and and one of 40+ yards. Zeke is nearly averaging one 20+ yard rush per game.

The Lions also are good at keeping running backs out of the endzone. They have allowed the second-fewest rushing touchdowns all year (six).

But optimistic stats aside, this is a run defense that struggled early last week against a team that couldn’t run the ball all year. The Lions’ defensive line has not been impressive all year, so it will take an outstanding effort from the linebackers to hold Zeke in check. And even if the Lions manage to play at their best, “slowing Ezekiel Elliott” will probably mean allowing at least 80 yards and 4.0 a carry, which are still respectable numbers for an offense. The Lions have only held three opponents below 80 yards all season, and the last time they faced a rushing attack nearly as good as the Cowboys was way back in Week 2 against the Titans. They allowed 139 rushing yards that day for 5.9 yards per carry. Though the Lions are a very different team than they were back then, they have yet to face a challenge like this before, and this matchup does not look promising.

Your turn.